Stanek Co-Curates “The Gift: Stories of Generosity and Violence in Architecture” Exhibition in Munich

Taubman College Professor of Architecture Łukasz Stanek co-curated an exhibition titled “The Gift: Stories of Generosity and Violence in Architecture” at the Architekturmuseum der TUM in the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich, Germany. The exhibition includes student work from Stanek’s Spring 2023 course and two seminars taught in 2023 and 2024 at the University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning.

People looking at an exhibit with images and video about a campus environment

Contribution of Taubman College students, “A Campus Built by Philanthropy”

The exhibition is a collaboration between Architekturmuseum der TUM in the Pinakothek der Moderne, and Taubman College within the exhibition context. The public can view the exhibition through September 8, 2024. An online publication series was released on e-flux Architecture to coincide with the exhibition’s opening.

The exhibition features gifted buildings—from spectacular to mundane, from extravagant to genuinely useful—that show how the unequal relationship between the giver and the receiver results in both generosity and violence exerted by and through architecture. Stanek and others ask, “What are the benefits of an architectural gift, and how may it cause harm?” and document how the giving and receiving of architecture impacts the production of these buildings, including their program, design, and materiality, as well as labor relations on the construction site. Stanek and his collaborators consider the donors’ economic gains and political influence. They explore whether architectural gifts require reciprocity, and if so, what constitutes a counter-gift? If the obligations of the receiver and the giver persist after a building’s completion, what is the afterlife of a gifted building, and how is it perceived, maintained, and used by local communities?

“Architectural gift-giving is embedded in a long tradition of imperial and religious donations of buildings,” said Stanek. “Yet in the exhibition, we explore how architectural gift-giving continues to shape urbanism in most disparate locations and across conventional geographical dichotomies, such as between the ‘global South’ and the ‘global North.’”

Working with local researchers and communities and using storytelling as a method, Stanek and others present case studies on four continents to explore the generosity and violence of the gift-giving dynamic. These include stories of humanitarian gifts for Skopje, North Macedonia; the gift of land in Kumasi, Ghana; diplomatic gifts for Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia; and philanthropic gifts in East Palo Alto, California, USA. At the end of the exhibition, they turn to Germany, showing how philanthropy continues to shape Munich and other German cities today.

Contributing Taubman College Students: Joint Workshop in Munich with TUM, Spring Semester 2023 – Gabriella McKinley, Hanna Merrithew, John Silva, Josephine Amakye, Kallista Sayer, Myles Zhang, and Tao Chou; The Gift of Architecture Course, Fall Semester 2023 – Abigail Dziedzic, Andrew Albrecht, Audrey Bellak, Brandon Smith, Caleb Lee, Catherine Pond, Chaz Dunselman, Constanza Capriles, Elliot Lavigne, Ethan Coletta, Gulshat Roziali, Jake Erlich, Kai Martin, Kailey Cullen, Landen Blixt, Liliana Garcia, Lilijana Gregov, Luke Lynch, Maddie Pelto, Madeline Tay, Mia Y. Chen, Molly Conlin, Olivia Ott, Rachel Chen, Sarah, Shaw-Nichols, Seungmin Baek, Shihyung Lee, and Sophie Panfel-Levitsky

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Video Introduction